Fentanyl testing strips — a lifesaver for addicts, or a killer?
A small strip that costs about $1 is the most effective at helping opiate users avoid a deadly overdose, according to new research.
In partnership with the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Brown University released a report Tuesday that identifies a simple, low-cost test that can help individuals detect whether a pill or powder is laced with fentanyl, the synthetic opioid responsible for a rapid rise in overdoses deaths in New Jersey and countrywide.
Similar to a home pregnancy test, the report notes, a testing strip can offer results in a matter of minutes.
Of the three drug-testing technologies analyzed, the report finds the strips were the most accurate and consistent, and could detect even the smallest amounts of fentanyl.
"Both in other countries and even in small pilots across the United States, we're seeing that drug-checking is something that people are starting to explore," Traci Green, associate professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology at Brown University, said.
Researchers also canvassed three major U.S. cities to speak with hundreds of active drug users.
Eighty-six percent said they would use fentanyl testing, and 70 percent reported that knowing their drugs contained fentanyl would lead them to modify their behavior.
About a quarter of those surveyed cited a preference for drugs with fentanyl.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joe Coronato, who saw fentanyl play a role in 60 percent of drug deaths in 2016, said while the low-cost tool may do its job as advertised, the dangers of testing outweigh the benefits.
"It's such a deadly drug that can be absorbed so easily into the skin, or inhaled so easily," Coronato said of fentnayl. "That procedure, as inexpensive as it may seem, is a deadly procedure that's probably going to cost people their lives more than anything else."
Because of this, Coronato said, the county has ceased drug testing in the field. Products are sent to a lab where proper precautions can be taken.
Coronato reaffirmed the study's findings that some users prefer the strength of a fentanyl-laced product. So this type of testing may not always be used for the right reasons.
According to Green, a "very small amount" of a drug is needed for testing. One could test the remnants of a bag or cooker.
More from WOBM: